Every November, I participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). What is NaNoWriMo, you ask? It is a collaborative writing forum consisting of thousands millions of writers all around the world. It is an awesome and unique experience, uniting us all around a common goal: to write a 50,000 word novel in thirty days — one month.
I’ve been participating in NaNoWriMo every year since 2011. This is my fifth year participating and the first time I ever successfully completed and finished my novel. I concluded my NaNoWriMo novel at 58,475. That’s right. My novel has a beginning, middle and end. I printed all 199 pages of my manuscript out and will start editing in January, after a delicious break in December.
During this year’s NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned how important it is to keep writing no matter. Sometimes it’s important to skip around and write the ending before the beginning. But the most important thing I’ve learned is that NaNoWriMo is not just about churning out that perfect New York Times bestselling novel. It’s about getting to know your characters. Characters will scrabble. Characters will fight. But you’ve got to let your characters figure things out.
As a self-diagnosed perfectionist, I’ve often struggled to write a first draft novel that is perfect on the first try. But in reality, that is rarely the case. Writers write and then write again and again and again. Words are added, deleted, evaluated, omitted. Writing is constantly a process of trial and error. In the past, I expected perfection but in reality you have to allow your characters, words, scenes to evolve and change each other.
This past November, I wrote as I did during my previous NaNoWriMo’s. In the past, I admit that I cheated by, for instance, not using contractions and thus creating two words instead of one. But this November, I didn’t. And I think I know why.
In the past, I was always more of a pantser instead of a planner. But this year, I vowed that things would be different. So, one day in October, I sat down, opened up my Google Drive and created a new document. I then set about writing up an online complete with chapter titles.
What this did for me was give me a path to follow. I was no longer writing in the dark. I wasn’t just blindly letting my characters take me where they wanted to go. Instead, I was writing within the confines of a plot that I had outlined. Within these confines, my characters were allowed to move forward while getting to know one another. It was a win-win situation. My characters were allowed to go for their dreams and my novel was right on track.
I’m taking a break in December and will begin the editing process in January. The editing process is completely new to me but I’m excited to meet it head on and embrace its many challenges. I’m excited to see where my novel and characters will go from here. Maybe my novel will never get published. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I wrote a novel from beginning to finish in a month and then I edited it. I got to immerse myself in an entirely new world of my own unique creation.
And that is the point of writing. Writers are not in it to just make money or become famous. They do it because they love it. So, if you enjoy writing, creating new worlds, transforming characters, then this is for you. Writing is a creative hobby. You can’t get rich off it so you need to enjoy it.